Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Ongoing Battle Over PVE Transparency

Whilst I was away, Newham council responded to the Freedom of Information request I submitted on 20 February, which asked for "a detailed breakdown of the council's 'Preventing Violent Extremism' (PVE) spending in 2010-2011, including expenditure on PVE supported projects, information on salary costs, project expenditure, publicity or other budgeted items".

Unsurprisingly, their reply [PDF] did not included a detailed breakdown but rather a 'spending overview', which showed the following information:

Once again, this tells us very little. There is no detail on how the PVE-supported projects totalling just over £100,000 are broken down, although this represents (after staffing costs) the lion's share of the expenditure. It will also be necessary to submit a further FoI request to find out how many times the council's graffiti control officers responded to extremist vandalism and for what purpose - I know only of the incident in Plaistow where a Jewish resident 's home was daubed with swastikas and racist abuse and this was outside of the period covered by the PVE spending above. It would be helpful to know if the money was simply used instead to subsidise the council's overall response to graffiti and vandalism and if not, whether specific incidents of extremist graffiti indicate a more significant threat from the far-right than from Islamic fundamentalism. If this is the case, is this also reflected in other areas of PVE expenditure?

Getting information out of Newham council on PVE is still like trying to get blood out of a stone. The Freedom of Information Act makes clear that people requesting information have a right to all the relevant recorded information a public body holds and yet again, Newham has failed to provide it. A request for an internal review has now been submitted.

Why is this important? Because close to £400,000 of public money was spent on tackling local radicalisation, an issue that no participant in the research by the Office for Public Management mentioned in the spending overview (a report published in September 2010) said was "a particularly significant issue in Newham, especially when compared to wider issues of socio-economic deprivation in the borough".

As the Office for Public Management also reported, "mistrust of the agenda is also a function of people feeling that there has been a significant lack of information and communication about Prevent funding and delivery at the local level". As far as I can see, that significant lack of information and communication is still an ongoing issue.

POSTSCRIPT

I have tried to see whether the PVE 'overview' makes any more sense by comparing it to the budget that I eventually managed to drag out of Newham council last year. These are the results, based on guesses on what the different areas of expenditure actually relate to ( for example, I've assumed that the 'resettlement project' relates to work with prisoners, which was tendered to St Mungo's Trust).

Either the information provided is incomplete to a staggering degree, or the council had a major underspend in 2010-11. My view is that it simply misleading -yet again.

1 Comment:

Rory Gallivan said...

Thanks for this. Much more informative than the Newham Recorder!

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